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  • karen horst cobb: December 2006

    Wednesday, December 27, 2006

    Meditation: A New Thing

    Thus says the Lord Who made a way through the sea, A path through the mighty waters. Remember not the former things, Neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing, Even now it is springing to light. Do you not perceive it? A way will I make in the wilderness And rivers in the desert! Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

    Loosing the hand which is holding on to the past begins the process necessary to receive new life. In baptisms we confess our desire to move forward, toward the new, and leave the old behind.

    When the Israelites went down into the Red Sea they were leaving Egypt and captivity. When they emerged on the other side, the unknown and that which was foreign, is what awaited them. It was a new thing.

    When Naaman dipped his disfigured body into the Jordan river seven times he left his leprosy behind. He left behind his pride, his suffering, and his religion. He left behind his royal privilege and exchanged it for faith and the unknown. It was a new thing.

    When Noah entered the ark he left behind the familiar. He was leaving the old and accepting something new. The old things passed away and all things became new. When the ark rested on the mount he emerged into a new thing.

    There is no newness of life without first letting go of the past. Gandhi said that, “the world does not need a new religion but instead people who are bold enough to live the truth which they already know.” Acting on Jesus’ teachings brings a new thing.

    His teachings are simple concepts. The problem is not with a complex spiritual dogma but with the courage to let go of the past and enter the new, the unknown, the unfamiliar, the unusual, the unlikely, the uncommon and the unexpected.

    At the beginning of each year we resolve to make some changes. Generally they involve behaviors we whish to change and goals we wish to obtain. Many resolve to lose weight, to exercise, to save money or to put aside some other personal vice. With every resolution comes a letting go of the familiar and an acceptance of a new thing. It can be difficult and threatening to make a change.

    It is time for a new thing. Instead of New Years resolutions which are self focused, perhaps it is time to boldly live out our religion. We can resolve to leave behind familiar mind sets and take risks on behalf of those who suffer and are oppressed. We can bear another’s burden and enter into a new thing.

    Prayer: Living Spirit guide us to the waters. We pray for courage to leave behind that which is on the river bank and wade into the water where living water flows through desert places. Amen

    Action: In solitude and silence listen to the still small voice which calls us to “a new thing.” Consider what you need to leave behind to more fully enter into love. What are you called to?

    Friday, December 22, 2006

    Meditation: What did we get for Christmas?

    How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him how brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tiding of good things, Who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion your god reigns…..The Lord had comforted his people. Isaiah 52:7-9

    The children in the living room of humanity are anxious to explore the gift of Christmas. We rise early to unwrap the present we have been hoping for. Year in... year out, humanity always wishes for a savior. Man-made saviors have been a disappointment. They come to power by force and manipulation and they all use the same tools of riches, military might and religion. This model is often placed upon our understanding of God as well. What was the revolutionary gift that came to earth that first Christmas?

    People we looking for the kind of savior they had in the past. Perhaps they were waiting for another Moses, an Abraham, a Jonah or an Elijah. Humanity wanted a revolutionary leader to set things right. But, what we received was so revolutionary that many have not been able to embrace it.

    That first Christmas morning the sky-god came down to earth (Emmanuel- God with us). The distant unapproachable Zeus-like god who wields lighting bolts from the clouds and punishes evil-doers became brother-God. Rather than a savior reigning with power and dominance his presence teaches that salvation comes to us through relationships. The infant Jesus is dependent, powerless, and needy. His survival depends on compassion, sensitivity and constant care. His presence on the earth establishes interdependent relationships and expands the family of humanity. Our brother-God came to earth to establish the Kingdom of Heaven and enlarge Zion to include all who desire to live in compassion and love.

    Citizens of his Kingdom no longer follow the path of dominance, punishment, violence, vengeance, riches, and oppressive religious practices. The ”salvation” is in loving understanding relationships. The quiet word which turns away wrath, forgiveness of an enemy, and values based on simplicity and generosity are built in to the Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven.
    What did we get for Christmas. We got a whole new way of being. If all who claim to be followers of our Savior Jesus were to embrace his teachings and example, the world would be saved from violence, oppression, and greed. We have received this gift every year for the last 2006 years and yet it often seems we have never really taken it out of the box.

    Prayer: Innocent lovely Christ child, gather humanity’s children (both young and old) in your gentle humility. Teach us how to love and understand others and to impact the world with your grace. We remember your birth, your life, your death and your re-birth. Quicken our spirits to love courageously and to release into the world the contents of the lovely package left for us this Christmas morning. -Amen.

    Action: Open your gift, try it on and go out into the world.
    Merry Christmas- Karen Cobb

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Meditation: What do You Want for Christmas?

    Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. Isaiah 7:15

    If there is only one gift under the tree in humanity’s living room what do we hope it is? We dream and pray and work for peace. In fantasies we envision a “savior” who will set things right. We dream that a brave political person will tell the truth. We hope that powerful religious leaders speak out boldly against war and hold people accountable. We seek out prophets who can encourage a huge ground swell of public opinion to change the will of the president. Perhaps in those moments of deepest despair and hopelessness for relief of the suffering of others we fantasize about help from another galaxy or pray for the rapture. Many of us, as children in the family of humanity, are anticipating change and have hope for the world.

    As Children of God we share the hope of a land flowing with curds and honey for all of God's children. When Caesar Augustus was actively expanding the Roman Empire during the first Christmas, humanity’s children were hoping for a savior too. The empire was expanding at a rapid rate and the concentration of power was now held firmly by Caesar. Local governments were dictated by him. People were being identified, counted, and controlled. Quirnius was conducting the census. Historians suggest that the registration in Bethlehem to which Mary and Joseph were complying had multiple purposes including; taxation, military service (Jews were exempt) and special government “ballots.”

    The empire required a lot of organization and control of the people. There was a unified currency and extensive highways connecting Rome to far away places. Global free trade was the prize. There was a postal system, bridges, aqueducts and extravagant government buildings. It was a new world order. History has shown us that with Empire comes conquest, oppression, possession, and loss of individual human rights. As worldly principalities expand the powers become more concentrated and Godly human ethics are trampled underfoot.

    National ID’s and special passports with implanted micro chips are in the works. Selective service registration keeps the information of eligible young people within easy reach for the reinstatement of mandatory military service. Free trade is changing local economies and traditional spiritual and religious beliefs are being replaced with nationalistically advantageous dogma. The Empire casts a long shadow on the world as land is invaded and conquered and massive embassies are erected to assure dominance and control of natural resources. Innocent people are being killed and cast out as refugees as powers and principalities expand.

    We know well the atmosphere into which Jesus “our savior” was born. The children in the living room of humanity anticipate the revelation of the Presence -the Savior who knows goodness and has tasted milk and honey.

    Prayer: All wise parent of humanity we anticipate with hopeful joy a new revelation of your milk and honey goodness to the world. We pray that we, your children, will rise early this Christmas to reveal to the world your Presence. -Amen

    Action: Reflect on the events in the world today and the promise of Christ for humanity as you enjoy the pleasures of milk and honey with your families. In moments of spiritual reflection ask the following questions:

    How far will I follow worldly Empire?
    Is there anything I would refuse my earthly government?
    What price am I willing to pay for love?

    Read the follow up to this meditation next week: What did we get for Christmas?

    Friday, December 08, 2006

    Meditration: On the Way to Bethlehem

    …give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death…guide our feet into the way of peace. Luke 1:79

    Jesus was born in Bethlehem’s darkness surrounded by Caesar’s “shadow of death.” Political forces sought to destroy the way of peace from the start. Today fear and violence still dominates this land. We sing about the peaceful town of Bethlehem and have romantic images of the village of Nazareth but seldom stop to think about the realities of the lives of the people who live in these cities today. We seldom contemplate our own participation in the violence there.

    Today Mary and Joseph would have a very difficult time reaching Bethlehem. They would first go to Jenin then Nablus , Ramallah and Jerusalem. In fact, they may not reach Bethlehem at all. The roads to the West Bank and Gaza are now closed with heavily armed Israeli soldiers enforcing the roadblocks. There are huge ditches, Concrete barriers, electric fences and manned machine gun towers. Nothing enters or leaves the area without Israeli military permission.

    Perhaps Mary could have had a similar experience as Fatima Nasser Abed Rabbo and her husband. They were on their way to the hospital in Bethlehem. She was only 7 months pregnant and her baby was suffering inside of her. In agony they approached the Israeli check point but the soldiers determined that her condition was not ‘critical” and denied her passage to continue to the hospital.

    The time “for her to be delivered” approached and she gave birth to a son wrapped him in a cloth and laid him on a car seat. She had suffered at the checkpoint for over an hour and after her baby was born in the car it took another hour and a half to get to the hospital. Her tiny son died as a result of not getting the urgent care he needed.

    Today if Joseph and Mary safely passed the check point and were seeking a room at an inn they would find many vacancies. Beautiful hotels in Palestine have been bombed or burned out by Israeli forces. The ones which remain are often vacant.

    Israeli occupation of the West Bank has gone on now for 39 years. Many in Palestine are Christians, but most are Muslims and Jews. Several generations of non Jewish Palestinians have now grown up in the refugee camps. The brightly shining star in the east is most likely the familiar horror of a well armed Israeli apache helicopter paid for by Americans, many of whom profess to be Christian.

    Illegal Israeli settlements are encircling the ancient city. The land is taken by force or by coercion. No one is allowed to live in these new settlements except Jews. The Bethlehem district is surrounded with concrete walls and electric fences. People are prevented from going to work and to school and the Christian sites are not easy to access. Already Rachel’s tomb is no longer the lovely site it once was but instead a fortress guarded by the army and barred to Christians and Muslims. Many Jews, Muslims and Christians want an end to the separation and violence legislated by the Israeli government and enforced by its army. Many also want the desperate Arab retaliations to end.

    The route to Bethlehem is dangerous both literally and figuratively. The Shepard can no longer safely graze his flock on the hillside. The manger is empty. Jesus, Prince of peace, was born in Bethlehem but the dark fears within human hearts often choose violence. Those of us who believe in the power of peace can join together. Christians, Jews and Muslims are all calling for an end to the violence in the West Bank and Gaza.

    Prayer: We pray oh God that you continue to give light to those who sit in darkness influenced by the shadow of death. Guide our feet into the way of peace. Amen.

    Action: This year when you approach a nativity scene, or display your own, make it a tangible prayer for peace for all of our friends in Bethlehem.

    Learn more about the militarization of the West Bank and Gaza and the role of the US government in continuing the violence there. http://www.globalexchange.org/countries/mideast/palestine/topTenReasons.html

    Read about modern day Bethlehem and leave you message to end the apartheid on the wall. http://www.openbethlehem.org/about_us.asp

    Keep up to date on this area which impacts the Middle East and the world.

    Read what President Jimmy Carter has to say on the topic: http://www.israeliwatch.com/2006/11/25/jimmy-carter-palestine-peace-not-apartheid/

    Monday, December 04, 2006

    Meditation: What Would Jesus Buy (WWJB) ?

    It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35“

    Nothing’s ever free. “ “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.” You get what you pay for. “ “There is no free lunch.” These are all sayings we recognize as everyday wisdom however our actions often reveal that we believe the exact opposite. We have become accustomed to unbelievably good deals from the $10 hand knitted sweater to the $1.25 large can of Columbian coffee. We seldom ask ourselves how the products we buy can be produced so cheaply.

    Some have suggested that slavery in America was not ended but just exported overseas. Cocoa and hand knotted carpets are two products directly created by modern day slaves. The trafficking of children from one area to another assures the retail prices of Cocoa will remain low. The selling of children to work in the cocoa fields bleeds over into selling them for sex. A similar condition exists in the carpet industry. There are an estimated 300,000 illegal child weavers in the south Asia. Only a few years ago there was an estimated one million illegal child weavers but activists have greatly reduced this number.

    Most Americans are not surprised to find out that other countries use slave labor to produce their products but do not know that United States also commits such atrocities. The Northern Mariana Islands located just south of Guam is a Commonwealth of the United States. The garments made there for J. Jill, Ann Taylor, the Gap, Liz Claiborne, Ralph Lauren and many others legally sport the label “Made in the USA” on their products.Many young girls and women from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh pay up as much as $7,000 dollars to move to the islands with the dream of a better life.

    Once there they realize they are not protected under US labor laws but instead are considered “guest workers” and are never eligible for citizenship. They are often forced to work 7 days a week and adhere to the requirements of the factory owned housing. Many are forced into prostitution and are required to get abortions if they get pregnant. The US garment industry lobbys to keep this system going. In recent years Jack Abramoff and other politicians have worked to make sure that labor abuses can continue for the benefit of big business. Tom DeLay referred to it as “the perfect petri dish of capitalism. “On September 11, hours after the towers fell, the presidential orders came down to the people. Above all else we were instructed to just keep shopping.

    Politicians, economists, and human rights workers will continue discussing and implementing trade policies but as shoppers we have choices. Solving the problem of unfair trade can feel overwhelming but the first step is common sense and awareness. When an intricately hand painted ornament or a hand woven basket retails for a dollar we should suspect that the worker did not receive a fair wage for their work.Perhaps some day Christians will not brag about the bargain they found or shop for the lowest price but will insist that workers be paid a fair wage for their effort. We can begin practicing economic justice by making wise choices. Buying fair trade coffee, cocoa, and cotton and looking for the “rugmark” assurances on carpets is a good way to send a message to industry.

    Shopping at Ten Thousand Villages and from individual crafts people assures that the worker is justly rewarded. Other ideas include shopping thrift stores and second hand shops where the money you spend goes to help those in need.Prayer: As we celebrate your birth help us be aware of the meaning of you life. We seek wisdom and desire to be more fully aware of how and what we consume. We pray we will be empowered to influence the world for good.Action: Learn and shop with awareness


    Ten Thousand Villages, fair trade goods: http://www.villages.ca/

    Other fair trade sites http://www.shop.com/op/aprod-~Fair+Trade+Product-k24-g1